July 30, 1979
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
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Actor and writer Derek Waters moved from working on web shorts to creating, writing, producing and starring in a critically-acclaimed series on Comedy Central based on the oddball premise that American history is best learned from the severely intoxicated. Impressively, he made this breakthrough without relying on the fact that he was related to one of the most beloved cult-comedy filmmakers of all time.Derek Waters was born and raised in Baltimore, MD, a city that his uncle John Waters put on the filmmaking map with his midnight-movie classics. In his early 20s, Waters moved to Los Angeles to break into acting. He became a part of the local sketch comedy scene, forming a duo with fellow up-and-comer Simon Helberg, later one of the stars of the hit sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS 2007- ). Their team attracted the attention of alt-comedy star Bob Odenkirk, who became the executive producer of a web series called "Derek & Simon: The Show" (Super Deluxe 2007). The series, based on exaggerated incidents from the pair's own lives, featured cameo appearances from several other young Hollywood comic actors, ranging from "Freaks & Geeks" (NBC 1999-2000) vets Samm Levine and Busy Philipps to future "Saturday Night Live" (NBC 1975- ) stars Bill Hader and Casey Wilson. The show was canceled when the web host merged with a larger online comedy site, and Derek & Simon amiably split when Helberg began his sitcom career. While continuing a low-level career consisting of guest roles on TV series and small parts in indie films, Waters began working on a new project called "Drunk History." Originally conceived as a set of videos for Funny Or Die, the basic premise of "Drunk History" was that Waters traveled to cities and met up with various locals (including some well known comics and actors), who got drunk and then told historical tales about their hometowns. These gripping yarns, such as the bitter rivalry between the Kellogg brothers of Battle Creek, MI, or the daring robbery of Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, were then re-enacted by actors exactly as the stories were told, complete with any random digressions and misremembered details. Along with guest stars like Kristen Wiig (who played 1970s kidnapping victim Patty Hearst), Jason Ritter and Waters' old sketch partner Helberg, Waters appeared in various roles in the re-enactments. He also was a strong presence during the recording of the stories: many of the historical anecdotes were interrupted so that Waters could stoically hold a wastebasket or garbage bag for the storyteller to vomit into before continuing. "Drunk History" proved so popular as a recurring feature on Funny Or Die's website that Comedy Central began airing the shorts as a series of half-hour shows in the summer of 2013. That same year, Waters became a more familiar presence on TV, appearing in a recurring role on the sitcom "Suburgatory" (ABC 2011-14) and guesting on the cable comedies "Men At Work" (TBS 2012-14) and "Maron" (IFC 2013-16).